Because it was given le-
gal advice that appears to be contradicted by the experience of other communities, Kent City Council should revisit its decision to reduce its Architectural Review Board to an advisory panel without the authority to enforce its design judgments.
Communities such as Hudson give architectural review boards the power to make binding decisions and grant certificates of appropriateness on projects, and in recent years Kent's architectural review board had received similar powers of enforcement although it was restricted to the city's design overlay district.
The enhancement of the Architectural Review Board's powers has had a positive effect and achieved a consistency in the downtown importantly as so much construction has been under way there. Without the power to grant or withhold a certificate of appropriateness necessary to project with a project, Kent's rejuvenated downtown would have a very different look and a less appealing one at that.
The argument has been made that granting the Architectural Review Board these powers creates conflicts of interest that makes it difficult for architectural firms in Kent to provide full services, especially if someone from the firm might be serving on the board. Usually when someone serves on a board where a conflict of interest is involved, that party recuses himself or herself from participating and the conflict is removed. Why that practice cannot solve the conflict of interest issues on the board is something we do not understand.
Before the board is diminished, we think the city ought to poll other communities that give their architectural review boards powers of enforcement. Doing so would surely give members of council a more accurate and broader perspective on what can be accomplished when an architectural review panel gains the muscle it needs to make a positive difference.
If anything, we think Kent would benefit from an Architectural Review Board with broader powers of enforcement. Surely, weakening this important board is a step in the wrong direction.